Thursday, 4 October 2012

1848 - The assault on Mano Cena

Following the first battle of Zelezna Kopje., the Trans-Syldavians retired to the village of Mano Cena, which stands at a narrow point at the head of the Stazni valley, and is a gateway to the TransSyldavian hinterland. They spent the next few days putting up barricades both in the village, and also in shoring up the medieval ditch and banked earth wall that still surrounded the village, and in barricading the gaps in it.

The Hungarians had spent the week rebuilding their forces, and receiving reinforcement.They had tried making feints around the village, but the rough, wooded valley hillsides were to easy for the TransSyldavian irregulars to defend and it became increasingly clear they would have to storm the village. Time was pressing, however. Autumn had started to turn bitter and winter would soon come, this would hugely help the TransSyldavian defenders as the high ground became snowed in, and delay any action until spring.

And so, a week after the first battle, they launched a reinforced attack in the early morning of October 8th.  Three infantry brigades, supported by a hussar brigade and guns, marched on Mano Cena. The Trans Syldavian forces were weaker than the forces that fought the week before, as the No. 1 Line Infantry regiment had received quite a mauling and had been pulled back a day's march to to rebuild and train. The village was defended that day by two bands of irregular bashi bazoukhs, soldiers and light guns from the TransSyldavian Grenz Regiment, the regional Militia, and the regional Huszar squadron that had so distinguished itself a week earlier.

Early Morning, Mano Cena - Irregular lookouts on the old medieval ditch and banks give the alert as the Hungarian army is spotted. Trans Syldavian forces rush to man the banks.

The TranSyldavian irregular pickets on the banked mound saw them and raised the alarm. Regulars from the Grenz regiment and the local Militia spilled out their billets and formed up, before racing to move up to their position on the mounds. Local volunteers assembled in the village. Artillerymen ran to the guns behind the barricades. The small Huszar unit saddled up but stayed by the village, awaiting events.

The irregulars on the walls moved off, left and right, into the woody terrain of the valley sides, hoping to harry the Hungarians from the flanks as they advanced. The villagers saddled up their chattels, chickens and childrens and moved in the opposite direction....

The dice is cast...and the locals vacate the village

The Hungarian forces all threw out skirmish screens of Grenzers and Jagers, while their infantry columns advanced behind this. A skirmish firefight soon ensued between them and the Trans-Syldavian irregular bashi bazouhkhs in the woods on both flanks. As with the last battle, the Hungarian right then seemed to hesitate, and the Trans-Syldavian bashi-bazoukhs on that flank seized on this and started to give them a lot of fire. If they could stop one brigade all day, that would be a huge benefit.

The Hungarian columns in the center and their left came into closer range of the guns and the bashi bazoukhs, and then into the range of the infantry on the mounds, and the valley filled with the sound of gunfire and stench of smoke. The carnage was dreadful, the Hungarians wavered, fell back, but they never broke, and soon on they came again. Again and again the TransSyldavians fired, again and again the Hungarans wavered, but still they never broke. Then, following a devastatingly accurate round of fire from the artillery,  two of their units did run.

A shout ran from the ditches, woods and banks "huzzah!" and the TransSyldavin Hussars moved onto the banks, to charge the discomfited Humgarians.

But where was the Hungarian cavalry?

TransSyldavian 3 pdr guns in action - despite coming under sustained artillery and sniper fire, their accurate enfilading fire on the Hungarian columns caused many an enemy heart to waver.

And  then disaster loomed as, on the far TransSyldavian right, the Hungarian Hussars emerged from the woods, they had been crossing the teacherous heights above the valley, and had got close to the village behind the irregular skirmish screen and now threatened to charge it on an unprotected side, getting between the infantry on the mounds and the scarecly defended village.

Hungarian Hussars emerge from the high meadows, making a pincer attack on the village. In the background, TransSyldavian irregulars kept a whole Hungarian brigade at bay for much of the day.

A small force of local volunteers, kept in reserve, had to rush to the barricades on this part of the village to defend it, but they would not be enough. To gain time then, the outnumbered Trans-Syldavian Huszars would have to charge the Hungarian ones - and in the ensuing fight these brave troops were routed, but they had gained the valuable time to shore up the village defences.. But at this point the rest of the Hungarian army's spirits rose and it pressed forward across the field. And then the battle truly turned, as on the Trans-Syldavian left, the irregulars were finally forced out their woods.

What had happnede was that the Hungarian right brigade that had sat doing nothing for much of the day had finally found its nerve and the whole force surged forward to attack the irregulars on that side, the good line infantry and crack Jager units put up a withering fire, forcing the bashi-bazoukhs to retire back into the foothills and off the table out the fight. This force then crashed through the woods, arriving on the village's left flank (below). The TransSyldavians could not cover the mounds and both village flanks.

The turning point - the Hungarians have now broken through the woods on the right, (top right) and while the fight in the centre and left is still raging, their hussars have also come through on the left of the village (out of picture, top left) threatening both flanks of the defenders on the mounds

At this point the call went out along the TransSyldavian lines, and Baron Blogovic galloped along the top of the ditch shouting "fall back, to the village" and the volunteers, Grenz and Militia units ran back to the village, to take positions in the houses and behind the barricades that had been erected earlier. The Artillery and the good Bishop Splenetic stayed to cover the retreat, then they too ran for the village, pulling their guns with them as fast as they could. The Hungarans then closed in, but so too did the night, and they decided that storming the village this night was not in their plans..(This was on about turn 12 of our game).

The TransSyldavians retire to the village barricades, as the guns hold on to the last moment. An invisible hand helps the Trans Syldavian Grenzers regroup, while Hungarian Grenzers gingerly advance to take the guns....

(28mm Hail Caesar rules but with move distances halved. We must have played about 12 turns between starting at about 8pm and having to pack up at about 10.30. Fast, furious action, many thrills and spills. Moving the large Hungarian force forward in a co-ordinated way was hard, as the dice gods were very capricious until the last few bounds. and the skirmishers and especially artillery fire kept on forcing the Hungarian columns to take morale tests, so forcing halts, retires, etc etc. It is not easy to take a defended position, what finally worked was being able to press on both flanks and the centre at once, forcing the retirement to the village!)